When I was eight years old, I tried to hang myself. The cord I used to wrap around my neck snapped, leaving me with a nasty rope burn around my throat. I hit the ground hard from the top of the monkey bars. This wasn’t a stunt. I expected and wanted it to work. The moment between the edge of the monkey bars and the end of the cord… that’s something I’ll never forget.
I went home, crying those body wracking sobs that won’t stop, with a burning red stripe all the way around my throat and neck. It stung. Bad. I told my mom some shitty story that some kids had strung a rope across the street as a joke and I ran into it on my bike. It was such a blatant lie, it never occurred to me, until maybe a month or so ago, that she may have actually believed me. I still don’t know. I imagine one might cling to any story that is an alternative to, “My third-grader tried to commit suicide.” Still, I’ve been told many times that suicide attempts are often a cry for help. I don’t know if that is true, but it still crushes me, feeling that if I *was* crying out, no one seemed to hear me.
Many of the moments before my attempt are hazy, but others are as sharply clear as this afternoon. I was at the local playground and some kids from school were picking on me. I don’t even know that they were really bullying me, though that happened often enough. They left, and the one kid who hadn’t been picking on me stayed. I asked him, already crying, why the other kids didn’t like me, because it seemed no one did. I can’t remember what he said, and at this point, 40 years on, I wouldn’t be able to trust anything that suddenly recalled itself, anyway. But I remember his face, and I remember the look of sad resignation on it, like it was just now. Whatever he said, he didn’t say it cruelly, but it was true and it hurt and it couldn’t be escaped. He then climbed down from the monkey bars and left. As soon as he was gone, I jumped down and grabbed a length of seemingly strong nylon cord, probably an eighth to a quarter inch thick, that someone had left by the side of the playground. And I ran to get back up to the top of the monkey bars.
Go hug your kids. Listen for what they may be unable to say.